April 6, 2009

When Palwaukee Municipal Airport was renamed Chicago Executive (PWK) in 2007, the transformation involved more than simply the design of a new logo. From its modest beginnings in the 1920s as a 40-acre grassy field with dirt and sod runways, through the growth it experienced when purchased by entrepreneur George J. Priester in 1953, PWK has evolved into a bustling 411-acre airport that serves as a powerful economic engine for the surrounding region.

With a strong focus on supporting area businesses, Chicago Executive remains one of the busiest business aviation airports in Illinois. The airport offers an ILS, a GPS and a VOR approach to Runway 16.

Chicago Executive is the “hidden fuel injection for the local economy,” according to Chicago Area Business Aviation Association (CABAA) president Katy Glynn. “While there are a number of other satellite airports, Chicago Executive still holds the title of the business aviation facility closest to downtown Chicago.” The entrance to Interstate 294 headed toward the city or the north suburbs is just a mile from the airport.

Like New York, Chicago has recently become the hub of a major airspace redesign aimed at reducing delays stemming from the traffic density and hub operations at O’Hare International Airport (ORD). Glynn said, “The FAA went to great lengths to talk to CABAA members about the new airspace.” Once ORD finalizes its new east-west traffic flow, the FAA believes more airspace will open up to and from Chicago Executive. In addition to a new STAR, there has been talk of an RNP approach to the 5,000-foot Runway 34, which has long been a VFR runway.

Dennis Rouleau, Chicago Executive’s manager said the airport is truly coming into its own as a business aviation facility thanks in part to a number of top-notch facilities already in operation there, Signature and Atlantic Aviation. Priester Aviation remains a major charter operator at PWK. More businesses are on the way as plans firm up to redevelop the airport’s southeast quadrant. A new full-service fixed base operator (FBO) – Sovereign Aviation – is expected to break ground by spring 2009. Also ready to break ground in 2009 is Brigadoon Aviation LLC, another full-service FBO.

Chicago Executive Airport is jointly owned by the Village of Wheeling and the City of Prospect Heights.